SPRING HILL — Maybe a patient's left eyelid required a surgical lift, but the right eyelid was excised instead. Or the right toe was to be straightened, and the left went under the scalpel.
"It's rare, but it does happen," said Dr. Srin Dutt, an eye physician and surgeon at Eye- care Centers of Florida, who has developed an iOS app to preclude such errors.
The app, known as Site of Surgery Assistant, is available for free from the Mac App Store.
One wrong-site procedure occurs for every 100,000 surgeries, according to the American Medical Association.
"We want it to be one of those 'never events,' " said Dutt, an ophthalmologist.
Having practiced in Hernando County for 10 years, Dutt said he has never seen such a mistake made, "but we hear of it."
Over the course of a year, he developed the app, essentially a template, into which a physician inserts a patient's data, the surgical procedure being performed and, most importantly, a graphic of the site. Everything is computer-printed on an armband the patient wears into the operating room.
The site graphic is highlighted to attract attention. The patient is asked to review the data and sign it, along with the doctor. The signatures are also printed on the armband.
Dutt, a graduate of the University of Michigan and its medical school, has been using the application with surgical patients, some 100 of them, at the Hernando Endoscopy and Surgery Center since January. Several other ophthalmologists at the center have adopted it, too.
Said Dr. Damodar Kanuri, the center's director: "I think it's a great application for protecting patients from any possible wrong-site procedures. At the end of the day, it's for patients' safety."
Patients, Kanuri added, feel it enhances the level of safety.
"It's all about the pictorial data," he said. "The way the mind processes information is much better with graphics. Also, they realize what's going to be done in a visual manner instead of just signing papers."
Because patients are asked to review and sign the data, they have a role in what's happening, Dutt noted. Patient reviews, he added, have been positive.
Dutt and his professional staff are intent on getting out word of the app. While prospective surgical patients might not download the app at home, with awareness they might suggest it to their surgeons, Dutt said.
As for providing the app for free, the modest doctor said he just wanted to provide something useful to improve the quality of medical care.
The next step is to apply the application to other surgeries. The template includes graphics of hands, feet and the entire body as well as the head. Custom graphics can be added as well.
"Hopefully," Dutt pointed out, "it will be good for any site where there are bilateral organs."
News of Site of Surgery Assistant has been featured in the professional magazine Ophthalmology Business. Articles about the app also are scheduled to appear in the October issues of Ophthalmic Professional and Ophthalmology Times.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]